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Low level format

 
 
Chris Redfield
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Posts: n/a
 
      03-04-2006
Hello,

If I want to blow away the contents of two hard drives, would a
low-level format clean the drives significantly better than a standard
format that occurs during, say, an OS's installation ? Would I be
risking a situation where the drives would be unusable if the procedure
went wrong?

Before I forget, my current setup is a dual-boot with XP Pro and Fedora
Core 4 on seperate hard disks.

I think that a normal format would not totally destroy everything on the
disk that has been deleted normally before. I want to use the disks
again so actual physical destruction is not an option.

Somehow, I've managed to end up with a copy of MicroScope 8 on a floppy,
which can do low level formats, but it throws up a few errors now on my
new system that it didn't before on a previous, older system.

Even if a low level format is not totally secure, so long as it's better
than a normal format, that will do me. What software can do this now
that is preferrably free, or at least not extortionately expensive ?

I don't need secure erasing that would foil all but TLA's, just a good
clean and thorough formatting process.

Call it a spring clean.

Thanks for your time and experience.

Regards,

Chris.


 
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CJ
Guest
Posts: n/a
 
      03-04-2006
Chris Redfield wrote:
> Hello,
>
> If I want to blow away the contents of two hard drives, would a
> low-level format clean the drives significantly better than a standard
> format that occurs during, say, an OS's installation ? Would I be
> risking a situation where the drives would be unusable if the
> procedure went wrong?
>
> Before I forget, my current setup is a dual-boot with XP Pro and
> Fedora Core 4 on seperate hard disks.
>
> I think that a normal format would not totally destroy everything on
> the disk that has been deleted normally before. I want to use the
> disks again so actual physical destruction is not an option.
>
> Somehow, I've managed to end up with a copy of MicroScope 8 on a
> floppy, which can do low level formats, but it throws up a few errors
> now on my new system that it didn't before on a previous, older
> system.
>
> Even if a low level format is not totally secure, so long as it's
> better than a normal format, that will do me. What software can do
> this now that is preferrably free, or at least not extortionately
> expensive ?
>
> I don't need secure erasing that would foil all but TLA's, just a good
> clean and thorough formatting process.
>
> Call it a spring clean.
>
> Thanks for your time and experience.
>
> Regards,
>
> Chris.


If you just want to clean install an operating system on an otherwise
healthy drive just let the new OS delete existing partitions, create new
partitions and format.

My understanding is that a true low level format, assuming you had a tool to
do it, would render a modern drive unusable.

If you want something more, use a utility from a disk manufacturer, e.g.

http://www.seagate.com/support/kb/di...lfmt_what.html

Try a Google for zero fill and name of your disk manufacturer(s)

If you are worried about someone getting data off your drive, take it apart,
physically destroy it and scatter the remains far and wide.

CJ


 
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Chris Redfield
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Posts: n/a
 
      03-04-2006
On Sat, 04 Mar 2006 11:45:52 GMT, "CJ" <(E-Mail Removed)> typed:

>Chris Redfield wrote:
>> Hello,
>>
>> If I want to blow away the contents of two hard drives, would a
>> low-level format clean the drives significantly better than a standard
>> format that occurs during, say, an OS's installation ?
>>
>> [...]

>
>If you just want to clean install an operating system on an otherwise
>healthy drive just let the new OS delete existing partitions, create new
>partitions and format.
>
>My understanding is that a true low level format, assuming you had a tool to
>do it, would render a modern drive unusable.
>
>If you want something more, use a utility from a disk manufacturer, e.g.
>
>http://www.seagate.com/support/kb/di...lfmt_what.html
>
> [...]



Thanks for the reply. Yes I did wonder about the possible outcome of a
low-level format actually b0rking my disks.

I'll search for disk utilities for my drives. And stick to normal
formats, with perhaps bad-block checking.

Cheers.

Chris.
 
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Jim Watt
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Posts: n/a
 
      03-04-2006
On Sat, 04 Mar 2006 12:23:06 +0000, Chris Redfield
<(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:

>Thanks for the reply. Yes I did wonder about the possible outcome of a
>low-level format actually b0rking my disks.
>
>I'll search for disk utilities for my drives. And stick to normal
>formats, with perhaps bad-block checking.


For what you want to achieve you are better off looking for a
disk wiping program rather than a formatting one;

The normal format program is worthless for security purposes.

--
Jim Watt
http://www.gibnet.com
 
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~David~
Guest
Posts: n/a
 
      03-04-2006
If an OS (windows, even linux) there is a security risk because information is
still on the drives; just the file pointers have been removed. True "low-level"
formatting will damage many modern drives because this physically alters the
Cylinder, Head, Sector (CHS) layout that used to be set up in the BIOS on older
systems.

Rather than go for fancy programs to cleanly format a drive, boot into knoppix,
and use the command dd if=/dev/urandom of=/dev/<harddisk> <options> and maybe
put it in a while-loop in a shell script so it runs through a few times, as this
method can clean a drive beyond what MOST (though probably not all) hard drive
analysis can recover, plus its cheap and easy.

~David~

Chris Redfield wrote:
> Hello,
>
> If I want to blow away the contents of two hard drives, would a
> low-level format clean the drives significantly better than a standard
> format that occurs during, say, an OS's installation ? Would I be
> risking a situation where the drives would be unusable if the procedure
> went wrong?
>
> Before I forget, my current setup is a dual-boot with XP Pro and Fedora
> Core 4 on seperate hard disks.
>
> I think that a normal format would not totally destroy everything on the
> disk that has been deleted normally before. I want to use the disks
> again so actual physical destruction is not an option.
>
> Somehow, I've managed to end up with a copy of MicroScope 8 on a floppy,
> which can do low level formats, but it throws up a few errors now on my
> new system that it didn't before on a previous, older system.
>
> Even if a low level format is not totally secure, so long as it's better
> than a normal format, that will do me. What software can do this now
> that is preferrably free, or at least not extortionately expensive ?
>
> I don't need secure erasing that would foil all but TLA's, just a good
> clean and thorough formatting process.
>
> Call it a spring clean.
>
> Thanks for your time and experience.
>
> Regards,
>
> Chris.
>
>

 
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George Orwell
Guest
Posts: n/a
 
      03-04-2006
Chris Redfield wrote:

> Hello,
>
> If I want to blow away the contents of two hard drives, would a low-level
> format clean the drives significantly better than a standard format that


<snip>

There's no such thing as "low level formatting" a modern drive. Low level
formatting hasn't been useful since the advent of IDE controllers with
hardwired drive geometry. Back about the era of the 40 MEG drive, and even
most of those were unable to be low level formatted. It's a a leftover of
the RLE drive when you could actually change the cylinder and track
configuration.

I don't know what it is you really have that calls itself a low level
formatting utility, but I'd throw it away quick. It's either snake oil,
or it will destroy your drive (if it does anything at all).

If you want a nice "clean" drive to start with, pick up BCWipe or some
other well known multiple pass overwriting software and clean the drive
that way. There's really no reason to even repartition if you're happy
with the current layout. Just wipe everything and start over. You said you
didn't need "TLA secure" wiping, so set the number of passes to two or
something to make it quick and easy, and relatively secure from your
average snoopy relative/friend.

By the way, I've seen partitions deleted and then recreated (identical
size/position) and have all data left in tact. A perfectly usable drive/OS
when the process was complete. And we all know that delete and format are
completely useless when dealing with real security issues. There's off the
shelf, mostly idiot proof software that can rebuild a formatted drive now,
and tools like Penguin Sleuth Kit that can pretty much recover anything a
TLA can except for what specialized hardware will provide them.

 
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nemo_outis
Guest
Posts: n/a
 
      03-04-2006
George Orwell <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in
news:(E-Mail Removed) :

> Penguin Sleuth Kit



There are a number of manufacturers' utilities available to end-users which
will zero out the drive - commonly, but erroneously, referred to as low-
level format - and even some third-party tools such as HDAT2HW which can
manage/reset the g-list (but almost never the p-list) and manage some other
aspects. Yet fancier software can sometimes even manage the P-list and do
a L-level sector reassignment

All this is far beyod what ordinary software forensics porgrams like Encase
and (the far more rudimentary) Penguin can do.

The heaviest-duty stuff available for end users to manage/recover hard
drives at a low level is the hardware based PC3000 (much better than the
other HW brand) for over $5000 (because it's usually bundled with
training). It's Russian-made but the best source (I think) is the Canadian
affiliate/distributor. However, it's anything but self-explanatory - it
would be about as useful to you as an MRI scanning machine if you don't
have the necessary knowledge and skills to use it.

Regards,

 
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nemo_outis
Guest
Posts: n/a
 
      03-04-2006
"nemo_outis" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in
news:Xns977CA7619ED61abcxyzcom@204.153.244.170:

> George Orwell <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in
> news:(E-Mail Removed) :
>
>> Penguin Sleuth Kit

>
>
> There are a number of manufacturers' utilities available to end-users
> which will zero out the drive - commonly, but erroneously, referred to
> as low- level format - and even some third-party tools such as HDAT2HW
> which can manage/reset the g-list (but almost never the p-list) and
> manage some other aspects. Yet fancier software can sometimes even
> manage the P-list and do a L-level sector reassignment
>
> All this is far beyod what ordinary software forensics porgrams like
> Encase and (the far more rudimentary) Penguin can do.
>
> The heaviest-duty stuff available for end users to manage/recover hard
> drives at a low level is the hardware based PC3000 (much better than
> the other HW brand) for over $5000 (because it's usually bundled with
> training). It's Russian-made but the best source (I think) is the
> Canadian affiliate/distributor. However, it's anything but
> self-explanatory - it would be about as useful to you as an MRI
> scanning machine if you don't have the necessary knowledge and skills
> to use it.
>
> Regards,
>
>



With some trepidation I'm going to disclose the location of one of the gems
of the internet. It's best if you read Russian but even its English forums
are great. It also has a treasure-trove of HD-related software old & new.
DON'T ABUSE THE SITE by hoovering all the software and screwing up his
bandwidth and gigs limit. Use the site, take what you need, a little at a
time, and leave the rest.

http://files.hddguru.com/index.php

http://forum.hddguru.com/

Remember: DON'T **** IN THE SOUP and ruin things for everybody by being
greedy.

Regards,

 
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Chris Redfield
Guest
Posts: n/a
 
      03-05-2006
On Sat, 04 Mar 2006 21:48:57 GMT, ~David~ <(E-Mail Removed)> typed:

>If an OS (windows, even linux) there is a security risk because information is
>still on the drives; just the file pointers have been removed. True "low-level"
>formatting will damage many modern drives because this physically alters the
>Cylinder, Head, Sector (CHS) layout that used to be set up in the BIOS on older
>systems.


Thanks for the response. I'm very much put off by this 'low-level' stuff
now. It's just something I saw in that Microscope 8 disk utility which
I've seen an OEM use while I was there once. But, I am talking about
several years ago now. As I'm not an OEM, I probably shouldn't be even
looking at it. Advice heeded. Wallet feels better.

Regards,

Chris.
 
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Chris Redfield
Guest
Posts: n/a
 
      03-05-2006
On Sat, 4 Mar 2006 23:45:07 +0100 (CET), George Orwell
<(E-Mail Removed)> typed:

>There's no such thing as "low level formatting" a modern drive. Low level
>formatting hasn't been useful since the advent of IDE controllers with
>hardwired drive geometry. Back about the era of the 40 MEG drive, and even
>most of those were unable to be low level formatted. It's a a leftover of
>the RLE drive when you could actually change the cylinder and track
>configuration.
>
>I don't know what it is you really have that calls itself a low level
>formatting utility, but I'd throw it away quick. It's either snake oil,
>or it will destroy your drive (if it does anything at all).


Thanks for the reply and the history. The utility is Microscope 8, which
is probably hopelessly outdated now, and besides which, I probably
shouldn't be messing with it as I've seen an OEM working on an old PC of
mine with it, and it's best left in the hands of that kind of person,
not me I think. I am utterly convinced now, thanks to replies here, that
low-level formatting is NOT something I want to be doing. Phew, that was
a close one. :/

>
>If you want a nice "clean" drive to start with, pick up BCWipe or some
>other well known multiple pass overwriting software and clean the drive
>that way. There's really no reason to even repartition if you're happy
>with the current layout. Just wipe everything and start over. You said you
>didn't need "TLA secure" wiping, so set the number of passes to two or
>something to make it quick and easy, and relatively secure from your
>average snoopy relative/friend.


I'll check out BCWipe. I have PGP 8.0 here too. But I'm curious about
BCWipe as I'm sure I used that back in my Win 98 days. Yes, I think I'll
stick to two or three passes if I use it.

As I'm typing this I remembered Eraser too. I'll add that to the list.

>
>By the way, I've seen partitions deleted and then recreated (identical
>size/position) and have all data left in tact. A perfectly usable drive/OS
>when the process was complete. And we all know that delete and format are
>completely useless when dealing with real security issues. There's off the
>shelf, mostly idiot proof software that can rebuild a formatted drive now,
>and tools like Penguin Sleuth Kit that can pretty much recover anything a
>TLA can except for what specialized hardware will provide them.


Scary. :/

Thanks again.

Regards,

Chris.
 
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